Tuesday, November 25, 2008


The other day I was invited to the "Zonal Sports Meet" of the Montessori (Nursery) section at my daughter's school. Her school is part of a chain of privately-owned Christian schools. They actively follow a distinctively Christian orientation in their approach, apart from the usual secular curriculum. I have no problems with that at all. I am too much of a sceptic and a pantheist to have any issues with any religion, unless it propagates violence and bloodshed.

What amused me very much was to witness the way in which the little children were taught songs and dances about Jesus, but in a very trendy, rock-n-rollicking, fun-n-frolicking manner - JESUS JAZZED UP, you may say. For instance, there was this song, which the kids performed very enthusiastically, jumping and prancing to rhythmic (and very loud) electronic beats:

Yesu hamey chhuraega paapo ke jaal se
Yesu hame bachaega shaitan ke chal se

(Jesus will save from the web of sin
Jesus will save us from the Devil's din - pardon my translation).

Now this is the kind of hero-and-villain concept that every child can relate to, set to beats which set their tiny feet tapping spontaneously.

There was another song which goes

Better than Superman, better than Spiderman
Better than Barbie...Jesus is a superstar

I like the way this song covers all bases, (Barbie for the girls, of course, and the rest of the hero-pack for all of them), and then pitches Jesus as the biggest superhero of them all.

This was a far cry from my idea of Christianity as a religion celebrated through solemn psalms and lilting carols, sung by serene choirs, resonant with Hebraic holiness and the tolling of church-bells.

But, I guess, any religion is only as good as the effect it has on the mind of the religious. It must appeal to our hearts and souls. And what better way to capture the attention and affection of little children than with thumping music and jumping dances - with NOISE and energy and rhythm and beats? And of course, by making Jesus a dashing crusader who can fight demons and save us from various fearsome devils.

I'd really be interested to have your views on this.


The Scatterbrain said...

Although I went to a Christian school, all we sang there were hymns!! But I did learn these 'cool' and 'fun' songs at Sunday School... and Oh what fun they are!!!

I've taught some of these kind of songs at Sunday School myself, and I think they are great because kids relate to them far better than they do to 'learn-by-heart' memory verses and prayers! We often think that religion is for adults. But kids are able to comprehend it, process it, and have a much simpler, but stronger faith in God's wonder working abilities than we adults do!

And, when faced with a difficult situation later in life, some of these songs come back to offer much needed guidance!

Nancy said...

I used to teach Sunday school and we were forever trying to make religion "relevant" to the young. Rock and roll sabbaths, etc. My question was, if we have to make this relevant, then obviously it must be --- . Nobody has to make what people really care about relevant.

But by nature, I just like the old stuff. I wonder if the attributes of old-fashioned or "authentic" religion -- psalms, candles, carols, etc. -- were a natural part of a given culture when they were new, or were they imposed on believers to distract them from what they really wanted to do? (Like hunt a wildebeeste or something.) Were psalms and chants ever rockin'?

My other concern is that fun but childish methods of inculcating religion can eventually produce adults who find religion childish. What religions produce deeply serious believing adults, and how do they do it? Then again, maybe we don't want to know ....

ugich konitari said...

In older days, there wasnt much of a choice on where you went to school. So choices in everything were less, and you went along with whatever was taught, academics,religion, attitude to sports,women, etc etc.

Today there is a choice. Schools have compulsions about following certain philosophies, but they are also smart enough to make it fun , to attract more children.

I dont mind what religious philosophy is followed in schools, so long as it teaches my child to be honest, respect older folks, parents, and learn to work hard in whatever he/she tries.

At the end of the day, religion is how you live , and not what songs you sing, willingly or unwillingly.

Lazyani said...

This is what religion should be, preaching joy and not sombre hatred.

Hope you and family are safe and sound after the mindless mayhem

Pradip Biswas said...

To me religion is a philosophic belief which is entirely personal and unbiassed. If someone is taught that only a particular prophet is great without mentioning other prophets then watch out! All the prophets are like toppers in the subject of feeling the God and they achieved it through hard excercises of meditations. So all the prophets are equally great. If the school is teaching today that Jesus is great the next day they should teach Sirdi Sai is also great. If not then this is done deliberately to motivate the students to a harmful, biassed and negative directions.

The Scatterbrain said...

Hi! I hope everyone in your family is safe at this time!!

Praying for your city!

sukku said...

I think religion should keep up with times and not stick to dogmas that were there during the time immemorial and expect us to follow that in the time and age as it would lose its relevance. Yes the main principle behind the religion should be adhered but it should be "branded" to suit our need in this technology age. My eldest son listens to Hill Song and they are pretty good.

Sucharita Sarkar said...

Thank you for your views on this. Religion is in the news again, for all the wrong reasons this time. Thanks for your concern about us. We are all well, as of this moment (we live in times when we cannot predict beyond the here and the now). Thanks for caring.

Paul Bernard said...

I am surprised the school has taken this line with the songs about Jesus.
The central teaching of the Christian New Testament is that Jesus was a man. A blessed man, but a man all the same, who is tempted and tortured and even killed.
It is anathema to the central message of the Gospels to present him as a superhero.

Sucharita Sarkar said...

Hi Paul,

That's exactly why I was rather surprised. But I guess here the end (of appealing to the kids) justified the means.